For many, the image of a family gathered on the floor, hands working magic with fragrant curries and fluffy rice, paints a vibrant picture of Indian culture. This tradition, of sitting and eating with legs folded and using hands, stretches far beyond mere practicalities. It’s a tapestry woven with history, ritual, and a deep connection to the senses. At home, we have grown up sitting on the floor- be it for a meal or otherwise and so now, when we go to a friend’s house and there aren’t enough chairs or sofas, am happy to plonk on the floor, legs crossed. Similarly, we eat with our hands at home, and that is a habit I continue no matter where I am. Nothing to be embarrassed about, and in fact food tastes better when eaten with hands, esp the licking of fingers when something is beyond delicious. 

Few days back was at a potluck meetup of sorts at someone’s house, and we were around 10 of us. two of us just sat on the floor, while others preferred the sofas, During the course of the meal, we were talking about this habit of sitting on the floor and how some have difficulty folding their legs or feel a cramp coming if they sit on the floor.  Have come across so many articles around this, some explaining the culture and others frowning upon us for eating with our hands… Here’s an interesting one- Why Do Indians Eat with Their Hands? – Best of Vegan

A Seat on the Earth: Traditionally, meals in India weren’t just about sustenance; they were communal celebrations. Sitting on the floor, often on woven mats called “chowkis,” levelled the playing field, fostering a sense of equality and togetherness. It created a shared space, breaking down social barriers and strengthening familial bonds. The close proximity encouraged conversation, laughter, and the stories that bind generations.

The Dance of Fingers: Eating with hands isn’t merely a choice; it’s an art form. Each finger plays its part, scooping, mixing, and savouring every morsel. This direct contact with food heightens the sensory experience, allowing diners to appreciate the textures, temperatures, and subtle nuances of each dish. It’s a mindful practice, encouraging slow, deliberate eating and fostering a deeper appreciation for the food on the plate.

Evolution of a Custom: While this tradition remains deeply ingrained in many parts of India, changing lifestyles and modern influences have led to variations. Tables and chairs are becoming more common, and utensils are readily used. However, the essence of the practice – the emphasis on togetherness, mindfulness, and sensory appreciation – continues to resonate.

Beyond Borders: This custom isn’t exclusive to India. Similar practices exist in various cultures across the globe, highlighting the universal human desire for connection and mindful eating.

An Invitation to Experience: Whether you’re planning a trip to India or simply curious about its rich traditions, consider embracing this unique dining experience. You might be surprised at the sense of community, mindfulness, and sheer joy it brings to the table. It’s a reminder that a meal is more than just food; it’s a cultural tapestry waiting to be explored.

So, the next time you have a chance, gather your loved ones around a low table, ditch the utensils, and embark on a culinary adventure that goes beyond the taste buds. You might just discover a deeper connection to food, community, and yourself.

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